What the heck do I have to do to become a multi-millionaire hipster Instagram influencer with lucrative contracts from big companies? I want free hotel stays, toys for my kids, treats for my dog, gluten-free weight-loss milkshakes, and whatever else anyone will throw my way so I can shamelessly hawk wares online to my adoring “fans.” I think I have an edge over the average social media influencer because, unlike the tens of thousands of identically #blessed skinny girls and #sixpack buff bros, I’m more of a proudly balding, beer belly type with a dope vinyl collection and a kegerator full of local craft brew in my garage. I feel like hipsters would rather see me in their social media feeds than some Beverly Hills twerp, right?
I keep hearing about how Millennials will (maybe) be the first generation to have it worse than their parents, and about how all the poor hipsters are struggling to find work with their liberal arts degrees, and about how it just ain’t easy making your way in the world today. At the same time, if hipsters were really struggling so hard, you might think they would get some sympathy. I don’t see any foundations lining up to donate their endowments in the fight to end hipster poverty. It’s not like underemployed twenty-somethings have anything in common with kids who get cancer or the victims of natural disasters. Is their struggle really real, and, if so, why does it matter?
— Jess M.
I have juxtaposed these fraternal twin inquiries because they illustrate a paradox of modern life applicable, but not exclusive, to hipsters. On the one hand, there’s this weird cultural myth floating around about how anybody can get rich and famous hawking products on Instagram. As if somehow you don’t have to work if you own a French bulldog that will pose for a camera and you’re willing to shill it till you kill it. Even big corporations are hip enough to mock this idea, as KFC has rather brilliantly done with its reinvention of Colonel Sanders as a Coachella-bound hipster influencer who can’t shut up about secret herbs and spices.
On the other hand, there’s this crazy reality check that, no matter how entrepreneurial the hipster spirit may seem, we’re a class of people, perhaps a whole generation, stuck renting homes we can’t afford, working jobs without pension plans, and hustling to make ends meet by pimping out our pets as models for the organic cat food we can’t otherwise afford.
These two seeming truisms pass like ships in the night, and that may be kind of a problem.
Now, I love the idea of a soup kitchen handing out vegan kale vichyssoise to hungry hipsters, but I doubt this predicament will have such a clean solution, in no small part because we can pick ourselves up when we’re down, thank you very much. Similarly, one does not simply get rich and famous overnight. After all, they call it a “fortune” because luck has more to do with it than anything else.
If there’s an answer, it lies somewhere in the space between diminished opportunities and illusory get rich quick schemes. I’ve often said we hipsters value our humanity in the digital age (hence the vinyl record collections and amateur lumberjack vibe), and we must find ways to make that humanity worth something, otherwise we will have nothing but Instagram dreams and empty wallets.